15 December 2008

An open letter to my mother

Dear mum,

The nurse from the hospital phoned just as I arrived at your house on Saturday. I spoke to her and she said that your lungs had filled with fluid. She also said that you were being treated with oxygen and diuretics, that it was a common complication that they see all the time, and that we could come if we wanted but we didn't have to. She said there was no need to speed, so I drove sensibly.

In the car on the way to the hospital I was planning all the jokes I was gonna crack when we got there. I was gonna tell you about dad's daft suggestion of phoning for a police escort so we could get away with breaking the speed limit. I explained to him that you'd already completely recovered from pulmonary oedema once already, so I wasn't too concerned.

When we got up to your ward a nurse crouched down in front of me and said "mum's just gone."

I went in to see you. You looked like you were sleeping except for the fact that your eyes were open. But then, of course, sleeping with eyes open isn't uncommon in people with OI, so you really did look kinda like you were asleep.

Dad was horrified that your eyes were open and your head was leaned over to the side. Apparently you'd *just* died, why didn't you wait for me? I never saw you on Saturday and we'd only spoken on the phone for a couple of minutes. Why couldn't you let me say goodbye?

I screamed, and I cried, and I held you. You were still all sweaty from laying on a plastic-covered hospital mattress. You didn't look like an artificially laid out and made up corpse... you were you. Of the stupid things that pop into your head, one of my first thoughts while I was standing beside you was "who is going to fix my trousers with a rip down the arse now?"

Apparently I told the nurse not to pull you by your legs... I don't remember that. I do remember telling her that you hated laying down flat.

I don't think I thanked you enough for coming to London when I had my operation. It meant everything to me having you here. That afternoon when I was in so much pain that I just laid there with tears coming down my cheeks and I asked you to come as close as you could get, that meant the world to me. It was like when I was young and you'd sit with me when I was ill. And yes, all those hours you spent holding my toes when I had a broken leg...

I'm so glad that happened so recently. It means so much.

I keep thinking of things I wanna tell you the next time I talk to you, like how much Betty likes the scratch mat you bought her. And there must be a hundred times I've nearly said "I'll just phone mum and ask her........"

I'm sorry I wasn't around for your last couple of days. I'm sorry that of all the stupid things in this madness that I wanted a normal day. I wanted to go to uni on Friday and have a normal afternoon. I'll regret that for the rest of my life.

I'm sorry I never hugged you more in recent years. I just wanted to make up for it all and climb in bed with your lifeless body and never let go.

But mostly I'm sorry that all you've ever seen me do is fail. Everyone keeps saying what a wonderful job you did of raising me - and they're right; you were the best mum anyone could want. It must've been hard seeing me have the opportunities you never had - specifically the fact that I got an education; only for me to throw them away by not trying hard enough. I'm sorry I didn't work harder at uni to do better than a 2:2, because I know that education is something you wanted me to have.

And in every other area of life, you never got to see me be the person I hope I will be. I tried swimming and failed at that. I tried comedy and had to give that up due to illness. I wish my late 20s hadn't been sucked away by illness, I might not still be such a loser.

You never got to see me get married (well "enter into a civil partnership"), you never got to meet the grandchildren I hope you'll have. How am I going to bring up kids without you to phone every 10 minutes for advice? And of course, you never got to see me have a career. You never even got to see me finish the MA I should've completed by now if it wasn't for my sinuses.

I hope one day I can be the daughter you deserved.

I love you more than I ever told you. I wish I had told you.


P.S. You couldn't have waited a few years until the DDA filtered through to the funeral industry, could you? I'm having a hell of a job finding a suitably funereal accessible vehicle for me and dad.


  1. I'm so sorry to read about your mum.

    Thinking of you and your dad.

  2. I'm sorry to read about your mum, too.

    The postscript made me smile.

  3. Anonymous2:11 pm

    I just read something you said on Ouch and realised this had happened. I'm so sorry.

  4. Anonymous9:26 pm

    I'm exploring Twitter for the 1st time and found you via Grey's Anatomy. I'm sorry about your mom. don't knock yourself down. you've got a whole life ahead of you to develop your talents and remember, there's no such thing as failure. Is Lisy Babe a novel? Just curious, as I'm published author in Los Angeles. I'm on twitter as "maddy banks" the protagonist in "The Funeral Planner" which is a comedy, but there's a lot in there that might help you deal with your grief. best, l

  5. I'm so sorry to read about your loss. Please accept my sympathy.

  6. Hi there

    I know I am late reading this, but just wanted to send you my sympathy on the loss of your mom. I read your post, and I could have written it pretty much....really shook me...hope you are doing as well as you can.

    with care